European Border and Coast Guard: Council reaches partial agreement on returns and cooperation with third countries

The EU is improving its return policy and its cooperation with third countries as part of its comprehensive approach to migration. To boost these efforts, the European Border and Coast Guard  (Frontex) will be given a stronger mandate to support member states’ activities in these areas.

The Council today agreed a partial general approach on a proposal on the European Border and Coast Guard, covering the provisions linked to return and cooperation with third countries. This agreement does not allow for the start of negotiations with the European Parliament, and is on the understanding that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.


The proposed rules will allow Frontex to provide technical and operational support to member states in return operations.

The agency will provide support at the request of the member state concerned or on its own initiative and in agreement with the member state concerned. The support will cover all areas of return, from preparatory activities to return, post-return and post-arrival activities. It also includes assisted voluntary return.

The agency will also be able to assist member states in the identification of third country nationals and the acquisition of travel documents.

Cooperation with third countries

The proposed rules will contribute to strengthening cooperation with third countries, by giving the agency wider scope for action and not limiting its possibilities for cooperation to neighbouring countries.

This includes the possibility of concluding status agreements between the EU and third countries (limited to neighbouring countries under current rules), which would allow for the deployment of border management and return teams from Frontex and for operations in the territory of third countries.

The agency will also be able to deploy experts as liaison officers, who will form part of the local or regional cooperation networks of immigration liaison officers and security experts of the EU and the member states. Priority will be given to the deployment of liaison officers in countries of origin and transit.


On 12 September 2018, the Commission proposed an updated mandate for the European Border and Coast Guard, with the aim of further improving the control of the EU’s external borders.

In addition to the provisions mentioned above, the proposal aims to strengthen the agency in terms of staff and equipment in order to provide further support to member states, including by setting up a European Border and Coast Guard standing corps of 10000 operational staff with executive powers. It also incorporates the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) into the Frontex framework, to improve its functioning.